Jocelyn Green takes readers to New Orleans in the early 18th Century as French soldiers struggle to maintain a colony in its infancy. As they attempt to build alliances with one Indian tribe, another native group sides with the British, and the battle for power which dominates continental Europe raises its ugly head in the New World. As the book opens in Paris, French midwife Julianne Chevalier, has been given a life sentence for the death of one of her patients following a difficult birth. Faced with life in the awful prison Salpetriere, Julianne becomes one of the many French prisoners who agree to exile to New Orleans in lieu of imprisonment. Little does she realize that her first duty in this new life will be to marry a male prisoner and procreate.
Marriage to a stranger, a dangerous ocean voyage, arrival to a community lacking food and adequate shelter, and the permanent branded mark on her shoulder telling the world that she was a prisoner, the property of the king -- all these hardships cannot defeat the resilient Julianne who hopes her arrival in the New World will reunite her with her younger brother who joined the French military and the colonies when only 14. But even she cannot realize what actually awaits her.
I've seen other reviews that mentioned that the readers felt bogged down at times. Not me!! I felt the action and pace moved quickly. From the initial birth which resulted in Julianne's prison sentence to the last page of the book, I was drawn into the suspense and the romance, but most of all into the portrayal of one of America's most iconic cities. Just when Julianne seems to be putting her past behind her, it returns, bringing new hardships and challenges. From the beginning, I figured the title would come to have a double meaning -- the mark of the king of France and then the mark of Christ our King. I like how that message is a developing message, a subtle one. Julianne is never really without faith, but it is a faith that grows and makes demands as the story progresses.
Lake Pontchartrain, a mixed population with differing allegiances and prejudices, a raging tropical storm that threatens to destroy the city are just a few of the details which make early New Orleans as intriguing as the modern New Orleans. As Julianne fights to survive betrayal, her past, and the storm, so does the infant colony. I received a copy of this title from Litfuse. All opinions are mine.